Managing Debt

7 Ways to Stop Overseas Debt Collection Scam Calls

Comments 47 Comments

Some debt collectors can be ruthless, calling all hours of the day and night, and threatening arrest and violence if they don’t get paid. Speaking in heavily accented English, they may use foul language and they don’t hesitate to lie about who they are, where they are calling from, or what they will do to you if you don’t pay up right away.

The thing is, these particular callers are not really debt collectors. They’re extortionists and scammers, calling Americans from other countries as part of a long-running con to get money from consumers who at some point applied for online payday loans. One firm allegedly raked in $5 million before the FTC stepped in.

We’ve written numerous articles about how to spot an overseas payday loan debt collection scam. But what if you know that it’s a scam and you just want the calls to stop? A reader posed the following question on our blog recently:

I have been receiving calls from someone who is saying I owe money to a First American Cash Advance. Well, first of all, I can’t even get a payday loan — I am in the military. Besides that they [have] been calling my work and it’s been difficult. The number appears on my caller id as out of area call (911). I’m not sure what that means. They say they work for the FBI and if I don’t pay I could go to prison. I never even received anything in the mail about this, as well as never having a payday loan, so I know it’s fake. I just want them to stop calling and harassing me. I can’t even understand them and they’re saying they will have me investigated. What should I do?

Strategy #1: Do Not Engage

Do not get into a conversation with them in the first place. “Hang up on them,” says Mark Fullbright, senior fraud investigator with Identity Theft 911. “They are effective because people want to converse about the debt and prove they did not owe a payday loan debt. There is nothing to prove to these scammers. Do not provide anything to them.”

Attorney William Howard with the law firm of Morgan & Morgan warns that “Just like any other volume business they are calling thousands of people and they are looking for the vulnerable and the gullible.” If it doesn’t sound like they are going to get any money from you, they’re more likely to move onto someone else.

Strategy #2: Ask for Written Verification

If you have defaulted on a payday loan and are worried this could be a real attempt to collect a debt, insist the collector put information about the debt in writing. This is your right under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and legitimate debt collectors know they must comply, explains Howard. Don’t settle for an email confirmation. And don’t be intimidated if the caller threatens you saying that there is no time for that because you’ll be arrested today if you don’t pay, for example. “You won’t be arrested,” says Howard.

Strategy #3: Turn the Tables on Them

If the caller is telling you that the agency is taking you to court, “ask for the specific case number and court it is allegedly filed in,” says Steve Rhode of GetOutofDebt.org. “Call the court to confirm. You won’t be able to because it’s a scam.” You’ll know this is a scam before it gets to that point, anyway, because when you are sued you must be served with a written notice of the lawsuit.

If the caller claims to be with a law enforcement agency, ask for specifics: the caller’s name and which agency he supposedly works for (for a police officer — the specific city, county, or state, for example). Just like you have the right to ask a police officer who pulls you over in an unmarked car for identification, you have the right to verify anyone who calls you claiming to be with law enforcement.

Let the caller know you will be calling that agency directly to confirm his identity before you talk further with him. Of course you’ll come up empty handed as the FBI and police officers are not debt collectors. Be sure to tell the caller that if his story doesn’t check out you are reporting the call to that same law enforcement agency. “Tell them you are going to call the cops on them,” insists Howard.

Strategy #4: Record and Report

Consider recording the telephone call but make sure to get the caller’s OK if that’s required by your state’s law. If you don’t record the call, take notes so you can file a complaint. “All consumers who get these threatening calls should file complaints with the Federal Trade Commission so that they have a record of the claims and the numbers called from,” says Jean Ann Fox, director of financial services, Consumer Federation of America. “The FTC cannot handle complaints individually but needs a large repository of complaint information to assist in enforcement.” It’s also a good idea to send a copy of your complaint to your state attorney general, Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Rhode also suggests filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, which lets you report spoofed phone numbers (phone numbers that are fake as in the “911” call mentioned above). The next time one calls, tell him you have reported him to the consumer protection agencies and that you’ll be recording or taking notes of everything he says from now on to include with your complaint.

Eileen commented on our blog, “I stayed calm and just repeated my normal response ‘I need to inform you that I was advised by my attorney to inform you this call is being recorded and can be used as evidence.'” She adds, “I agree the best thing you can do, is to stay calm and just repeat the same things over and over, getting upset only proves they can get to you and they will continue to call you hoping you will just pay them.”

Stop Overseas Debt Collection Scammers (cont.) »

Image: Mr.Thomas, via Flickr

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  • Doris Ross

    Thanks for the heads up! I did get a call like that on my home phone and this guys keeps calling me at home every 7pm., although he hasn’t called me yet for the past 3 days.

    Can I still file a complaint? I’ve reported the phone number to http://www.callercenter.com and exposed him. However, I’m uncertain if |I can still sue him.

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

      Doris,

      You can certainly file a complaint. I’d suggest reporting the calls to the FTC, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and your state attorney general’s office. Suing them would likely be a waste of time, however, if they are based overseas.

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  • sjl

    I got a call like that today too. Indian accent, threatening to have me arrested. Said I was a criminal because I didn’t pay the payday loan via Western Union but rather through my bank account. He said that was breaking federal banking laws that were just changed in the beginning of this year. He grew increasingly angry and threatened me more when I asked for verification of who he is and the actual complaint be mailed to me. In the end he hung up on me and said I’ll be arrested tomorrow and that my wages will be garnished. Said his name was Joseph Garner and worked for the California district attorney’s office and with the FBI. Obviously I know this is a scam but he had my driver’s license number and my social security number. That has me worried! What can he do with that information? I have since placed a fraud alert with the credit bureaus and will contact my bank tomorrow but what do I tell my bank? Please help!

    • Gerri Detweiler

      SJL –

      I understand that you are scared. It’s creepy to say the least. You’ve done the right thing to put a fraud alert.

      Just tell your bank exactly what’s happening. I haven’t heard of these scammers going in and trying get money directly from consumer’s bank accounts (though I can’t say that hasn’t happened).

      The main thing you are going to be dealing with is probably the highly annoying calls. So fight back and don’t let them think you are an easy target! They will move on if they can’t get anything from you.

      If you do have a job, it would be a good idea to let your employer know in case any calls or notices come in. I have heard of these firms faxing bogus “employment verification: type letters to employers.

      Hang in there.

      • imavictimtoo

        These Indians were calling me incessantly too…sometimes up to 20 times a day. I read all I could on the internet and found out that it is a scam resulting from applying for payday loans. It does not matter whether or not you actually took out the loan. This call center has illegally bought your information. Somehow $35 was deducted from my checking account, which I was luckily able to get back with the help of my bank. The calls have been non-stop for a week, until finally today I got only one (hopefully to verify taking me off of their list). What I did yesterday was answer one of these calls that I didn’t recognize (the number you see on your caller ID is not an actual number they are calling from-they make up numbers which appear as a front for the real call center in India they are calling from), when I heard the Indian voice asking for me in broken English, I told them that I didn’t know who they were asking for, and that I just got the new number for my phone yesterday. I also got the Youmail app for my iPhone. The number of phone numbers they can call from is unlimited, so trying to block a specific one doesn’t really work. What I did was program all of the contacts in my phone (friends, family, etc.) to get one voicemail if I don’t answer, and any unknown number to get a “this phone is out of service message” one where they can’t leave a voicemail. When I saw them call today, I just let it go to voicemail, so they got that out of service message. So far, just one call today, so hopefully this is at an end. I also had to change my email address because they were blowing it up with Spam. And last, I’ve closed my checking account and put a fraud alert on my credit file. These people are the scum of the earth and need to be stopped. Good luck to anyone dealing with this!

        • Gerri Detweiler

          What great suggestions! The ymail tip is an excellent one. Let us know if this works for you. You’re right – once you are on the list they are relentless.

  • sjl

    And here is why they call from so many different numbers…caller ID spoofing! They have now taken my work phone number and use it as their caller ID number when they call people! Fortunately for me the number is just a direct line to my office and the poor people they call and threaten like they did to all of us see my office number come up on their phones When the terrorists leave a message they leave their 855 number to call back but people call me. That’s both good and bad. I do return the call to the victims and tell them what’s going on and to not respond to them at all and encourage all the steps we take here (FBI, FTC, Fraud Alert etc). So in essence they are killing their own business because I can call the victims and tell them to not worry, no one is going to arrest them and to not call them back.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Wow – This is a new twist I hadn’t heard! It is great you are calling them back and alerting them to the scam. Feel free to point them to our stories on this topic as well. :) Appreciate your sharing this advice. It can happen to anyone.

      • Dingo556

        Ive tried calling back, they never pick up. It puts you on permanent hold.

  • sjl

    And here is why they call from so many different numbers…caller ID spoofing! They have now taken my work phone number and use it as their caller ID number when they call people! Fortunately for me the number is just a direct line to my office and the poor people they call and threaten like they did to all of us see my office number come up on their phones When the terrorists leave a message they leave their 855 number to call back but people call me. That’s both good and bad. I do return the call to the victims and tell them what’s going on and to not respond to them at all and encourage all the steps we take here (FBI, FTC, Fraud Alert etc). So in essence they are killing their own business because I can call the victims and tell them to not worry, no one is going to arrest them and to not call them back.

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  • Mary

    I have been getting calls like this also. Some friends of mine has been getting the calls alos and the person on the other end tells them that I better show up in court or I am going to be locked up. FOr instance, one got a call last night saying I was supposed to be in court for something I did in Maryland and if I didn’t show up at 10:00 they would arrest me. She asked them how was I going to get arrested when I have lived in Virginia for years and not Maryland and they said well, she will be arrested. I told here it was a scam. They left the name and number to call and that was all the information they would give her.

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri

      Glad you didn’t fall for it Mary!

    • Michael Schreiber

      Mary — would you share your story with our community at http://forum.credit.com ?

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  • Rc

    Lets assume ii took a loan and paid it over twice with,the atrociois interest and realiEd id never be free so I quit. Im on disability and was the time making a lousy 1650 @ a month at the time
    Please advise to this site only if u know your law

  • Rose

    I get these calls all the time! I never answer any #’s that i do not know. They call my work phone #. I now keep my ringer off and look at the caller ID before I answer any calls at work or just let it go to voicemail and call back if it is a legit caller. Now my sister got a call threating that I needed to contact them because I have charges against me filed and that I was going to be served papers yadda yadda yadda! I just want these bastards to stop. I figure I never answer the calls I just let them go to voice mail figuring sooner or later they would get tired of calling me! But the calls just keep comming. Always dif. #’s they just keep coming! The latest comes in as an unknown # so I can’t even report the # I am being called from because of that. They do, however, leave a message with a number to call and a case # I need to give. I get these calls several times a day both at work and on my cell phone. But now they are contacting family! This is freakin ridiculous! Last week I got a call threatening that in 48 hours if I did not contact them I would be served papers at my home or office. Well that was a week ago. 48 hours is 2 days? Right? Not a week!! So now i am getting this new threat, but as I said they also contacted a family member. This is the first time they have actually contacted someone in my family!

    • http://www.credit.com Gerri

      It’s outrageous isn’t it? I’d suggest you file a complaint with the FTC and the CFPB. It won’t stop the calls but the FTC has held hearings on robocalls and this kind of harassment needs to be stopped. The more complaints they hear, the more attention this problem will get.

  • Cheryl

    I am getting 20 to 30 calls a day from a 917 number in Raleigh, nc. They are also blowing u the phone at a doctors office I use to work at. We had a police officer come out and answer the phone, I called FTC and out atty general. This is crazy!! Any ideas to stop the calls for the doctors office? They cannot answer them fast enough.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Ugh! That is nuts. Since they have a business line, I would encourage them to enlist the phone company’s help.

      • Chris, President ThumbJeeps

        Unfortunately, I went up through the channels with the phone companies to see if we could even put in a state to state block. Nope… they say that this is a federal extorsion case and they cannot continue helping and I needed to contact the FBI.

  • Cyndy

    My sister has used my info to try to get loans and now I am being harassed constantly, one sure tell that the calls are a scam are when they will not tell you their name and when you say you are a scam they get really angry. I also ask them a million questions and make them more mad, it is getting old cause i can’t get rid of them but i called the police station here one day and the officer told me to blow a whistle in the phone when you get a call. Some day they will get caught.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I just hope enough people wise up and stop paying them so that they have to find a new way to make money!

  • Murphette Carter

    I have been getting calls from a Gary Khristian from 347-263-8001 I told him she was out ill today and he didnt even know he was talking to me. I got a call the other day told him he was a fraud company and want be getting a dime out of me and I wil report him to the fbi. He claimed he was from a legal department. Than he used a different name. I also got a call from a man today claiming to be a depty. I told him she is out ill, he didnt leave a message got really angry on the phone saying you didnt give the message to murphette carter, dont u understand english what is wrong with you in a rude way. When he calls my job tomorrow can i have some suggestions on what to say to keep him from calling me.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Murphette –

      Under federal law, if you tell a debt collector not to contact you at work the calls must stop immediately. Don’t pretend to be someone else next time. Tell them that your employer doesn’t allow you to accept these kinds of calls at work and that they must stop. If they call again, tell them that you know they are breaking the law and that you will be reporting them to the authorities. If they continue to call then there may not be a lot you can do to stop them other than to keep hanging up on them. Eventually they will get the message that you aren’t going to pay and will move on to greener pastures.

      (Based on what you are telling me I assume this is not a legitimate debt. If it is, then you can ask them to send you something in writing and they are required to do so – again, under federal law.)

  • Suzi

    A guy named David Miller (very heavy Indian accent), called and left a voicemail and stated that this matter was time sensitive and to have my attorney by my side when I called back. He has called back at least three or four times and all goes to voicmail. He states if I do not respond he cannot control what happens to me and may God be with me. I say this is a scam. I have filed a complaint with the FTC.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Sure sounds like a scam to me!

    • UsefulClues13

      Same here, sounds like the same guy haha! I’ve gotten a few calls from all Indian accent sounding people and also emails from bogus law offices. These guys are idiots!

  • NaTrina

    do these scam calls only come from over seas? i’ve been getting these calls and i don’t detect any accent.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      No, not all are from overseas.

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  • Unsure

    I have been getting calls and I’m not sure if it is a scam. How can I tell? I let voicemail take care of calls from unfamiliar numbers. The messages always go like this: They start with static and it’s impossible to make out what the person is saying. The static subsides and you can clearly hear something to the effect, “please return my call immediately to address the issue.” A phone number is given and then “this call is in regards to a debt.” I have gotten a number of these calls. Each time, it seems to be a different person calling. Sometimes, they give the same number to call back. Other times, the number is different. Sometimes, I get a call each day for a few days in a row. other times, I get a call weekly or even less. This has been going on for a few months. I do not have any debts that I’m aware of.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Sounds scammy to me as well. Are they leaving a phone number for you to call? Have you tried typing that into a search engine?

  • moe

    The person calling me says he is calling from DFF in NY (said it stands for Department of Financial Fraud). He says his name is mark brown (but very heavy accent and in background I hear lots of other voices as if a TV is on or maybe a room full of people talking).
    My wife answered the phone and this same person asking for me told her the police were on the way if I didn’t pay and when she said she didn’t know me, he gave her my ssn # over the phone and that he knew that she knows me. I am even more concerned due to the fact that he had my ssn#. (It was my actual ssn he gave her even though she didn’t confirm it). She did tell him at taht time that if that was the person’s ssn# he is trying to locate that it is probably illegal for him to give it to someone else over the phone and then he hung up. He keeps calling though and I turned my phone off for a few hours. Today nothing yet but I have 28 calls from “Unknown” number on my phone yesterday within an hour and a half.

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  • Candice

    I finally answered this type of phone call got hung up on a lot of times but called right back and stated the obvious you call my phone or my work phone again you will be reported. Do I need to change checking accounts, and report the fraud. He had my social secruity number, and I gave him my date of birth. What do i need to do???

  • http://totaldivarea.tumblr.com Reanell Frederick

    I got these calls and unfortunately engaged and ended up paying them money numerous of times. I am currently in a situation where they are expecting money this week. Idk what to do b/c paying them seems to be the only way I can get them to stop calling. My work place. They called non stop until I set up a payment arrangement.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Reanell — It doesnt sound like paying them has stopped them from calling so that tactic isn’t working and you’re wasting your money. We’d definitely advise against paying something you know you don’t owe, especially now that you know it’s a scam. If you’ve already engaged, we’d strongly urge you to follow strategies #2 through #5 — once they realize that you aren’t falling for it, and that there’s the possibility that they’ll be caught, the calls will stop. Get as much information as possible and report it. These unethical scammers prey on consumers that are unfamiliar with the laws and their rights. Once they realize you know better, and that they can’t coerce you to pay through fear and illegal collection tactics, they’ll likely choose another target. The key is knowing your rights and fighting back.

    • aaron hamlor

      They call because you give them money. Stop ASAP giving these people money. I too gave them money on several occassion, because I did have some loans outstanding. But when I went to get a confirmation of payment after makning my final payment I could not get anyone on the phone. They still call from time to time and I ignore the call. There is no reasoning with these folks. Please just stop paying them and ignore the calls.

  • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

    The auto dialers can be frustrating, especially when you’re dealing with them at work. When they call, are they calling from an blocked number? Is there any way to get the number they’re calling from? If you’re able to pinpont the number, you may be able to have the phone company block that particular number. The downside here is that it may involve getting your employer involved in order to authorize the request for the phone company to do so.

    Filing a report with the FTC is def. a good start, but you there are a couple of other resources you may wish to try as well:

    1. One option is to file a complaint directly with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). To file a complaint with the CFBP, click here and then follow the prompts.

    2. Another option is to file a complaint with your state Attorney General’s office, most of which offer an online consumer complaint option. For contact information, including address, phone number, and website address, use this state-by-state listing of current Attorney Generals here: http://www.naag.org/current-attorneys-general.php

  • Gerri Detweiler

    Ugh – this is a perfect example of why it is so crucial to get a settlement agreement in writing – and then hold onto it forever.

    Anyway, with regard to your credit reports, I would suggest you dispute the collection account by certified mail. Dispute it with all the credit reporting agencies on which it appears and send a copy with to the collection agency with a letter noting that if they continue to report it you will seek help from a consumer law attorney.

    Technically collection accounts may be reported for seven years and 180 days from the date you first fell behind with the original creditor. However, in this case it sounds like the debt should not have been placed with the collection agency after you settled. You can state in your letter than you know the debt is time-barred and you will not pay it under any circumstances.

    Hopefully the collection agency won’t see any benefit to getting in the middle of this dispute and will stop reporting it.

    I am not an attorney. If you want legal advice on how to deal with this you can contact a consumer law attorney.

  • crystal

    This happened to me at work today. They called my work over 300 times in four hours. I have never had a loan from them and tried asking them to stop calling my job and for proof and they said no they kept calling over and over trying to get me fired I guess. Becuase even when I told them I would talk to them after work and tried giving my cell number they hung up and didnt want it. They just kept calling and hanging up all day.

  • Frustrated Call Center Manager

    Just throwing this out there in case anyone is still replying to this after so long. These calls have come into my place of work back in Oct 2012 – incessant calls tying up my phone lines for an employee that no longer works at this company. They are threatening to my employees who answer the phone that they will just keep calling, demanding to speak to the employee. We started a case with our local police department. Today, the calls have started again, for same employee who no longer works here. Anyone know what our business can do to attack these phone terrorists? I know you can file complaints as the person they are asking for, but what about the place of business these calls are disrupting???

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      I wonder if NoMoRobo will work for your business? Will you check it out and see what you think?

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Ugh! Perhaps you can get a google voice number and start using that for legitimate calls. It lets you screen calls. Also some phone companies offer phone screening though for a fee.

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Good for you! Let us know what happens.

  • Graeme Byers

    Hi, This tips is nice for people who are having a hard time by such scam calls. If you really are a debt defaulter then consult with required agency for a confirmation.
    Thanks for this post.

  • greg

    These guys calling me telling me they are going to kill me

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Greg — If someone is threatening to kill you, you need to report that to authorities. Please tell the callers you are reporting them and that you are recording the calls — and do it. You’ll find more information here:
      Help! We’re Getting 50 Calls a Day from Scammers

  • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

    Me too. Be careful!

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